Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Sunderland - Stadium of Light




Sunderland FC
The Stadium Of Light
Sunderland
Wearside
SR5 1SU

0871 911 1200


Ground Number: 276
Sunday 12th May 2013
Sunderland 1-1 Southampton
Barclaycard Premiership

The day was finally here for me to complete the 92. Sunderland had been left to last, purely as it was one of the furthest away, but I was certainly looking forward to it. There was a choice of 2 games left at the end of the football league season - Stoke on a Monday night and Southampton on a Sunday. The Monday night would have been easiest as I wouldn't have needed to take any time off of work. But I had some holiday to spare, and the days I wanted were available so I decided to make a weekend of it. Plus the fact the Southampton's style of football should produce a better game that Stoke's agricultural  style. Or so I thought.

I had spent the night before in Whitley Bay after going to Consett the previous day. I woke up at around 8am and was on my way shortly after 9. After visiting Sunderland RCA's ground for pictures (which sadly was all locked up) I found my pre planned parking spot in a road called Tunstall Terrace. This was near a Metro station and the plan was to get a day ticket for travel to the City Cetre and game. But when I got there and checked Google Maps, the City was only 20 minutes walk away.

By the time I walked to the city centre it was still only 10.40 and the shops didn't open till 11, so I waited around, going on Facebook on my phone. When everything opened I didn't spend long in the shops, just getting some chicken for breakfast and the Non League Paper. By 11.45 I was in the ISIS pub and after a couple of pints of cider and a pint of Belgian fruit beer I decided to start making my way to the ground. It had been a great pub, with me getting to try some nice stuff and I'd recommend it to anyone who visits Sunderland. By then I was a bit peckish, so I got some chips and a beef roll.



I got to the ground at 2.30 and went in. I was surprised that even at kick off, there were still plenty of empty seats in the upper tier for the game that could guarantee their Premier League safety. I had hoped to start and complete the 92 with Martin O'Neill as my first game was with Wycombe under him. Sadly, around a month ago they parted company and had appointed former Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio as their new boss. He made an immediate impact, as they beat local rivals Newcastle 3-0 on their own patch. They had been bought back down to earth with a 6-1 hammering at Aston Villa. On paper they were a very poor team, with unusually a lot of rubbish signed by the otherwise peerless Martin O"Neill who has built some stellar teams down the years, not least at Wycombe where a memorable 5 years were had, and some of the finest players to pull on the quartered shirt were signed. Really for Sunderland this season, the only person to have done himself justice was keeper Simon Mignolet.

Sadly this translated into a very dull game. Southampton were by far the better team, despite daftly sacking Nigel Adkins for a man, who months on, still can't speak a word of English. It was all square at the break and Sunderland did improve slightly after half time. They took the lead through Phil Bardsley on 68 minutes after Mignolet had made several good saves to keep them in the game. But Southampton soon equalised through Jason Puncheon. Overall it was a very poor game to complete the 92, though it had been a good day and nice to finally complete every ground in the Premiership and Football League.

After the game, I walked back to my car, which turned out to be over a mile away. I got there at 5.30 and after a quick drink of Irn Bru I was on my way. My sat nav quoted over 5 hours journey but after a slow journey out of Sunderland thanks to a pathetic 'no car lane; sitting totally unused while people sat and waited in traffic, I made quick work of the motorways, getting home at 9.50.

Despite wanting to reach 125 games this season, I decided this would be the final one at 122. It had cost me over £2245 to see all the games, talking into account tickets, travel and matchday spending. I had seen some great games and a few poor ones too. I had visited some great places too, meeting new people and making some great friends.

My next season targets? I may expand on this in a later blog post, but for now I will put my thoughts here.


To bring the spending down to £1750. I did initially target £1500 but I have had to buy a season ticket this year, whereas last season I got one free for collecting lottery money for the club.

This will be achieved by better planning. I did very well on my weeks up North in terms of hotels. Travelodge helped me greatly on this, very rarely paying over £20 a night. But fuel is very expensive these days. And I had made some costly journey's, most notably going all the way from Burnley one night, into Grimsby to see a mate (one of my best meets of the season though), then to Parkgate near Rotherham for an afternoon game, back up past Grimsby to Barton, just under the Humber, before going back to my hotel in Doncaster. The next day I had a game over the other side of the country at Liverpool

Also, related to the above, trying to take people with me for most of the games. I achieved this in part this season, but still went solo on a lot of trips, again the fuel costs mounted up.

As for ground targets, the projected leagues give me a target of 3 in the Conference Premier, 6 in the Conference North, 5 in the Conference South, 6 in the Isthmian Premier and finally 3 in the Southern League Division 1 Central. That's 23 that I certainly want to do before next season ends.




THE STADIUM OF LIGHT is a smart modern stadium, handily located within walking distance of Sunderland City Centre. With a capacity of 49,000, it is amongst the biggest grounds in the country. The atmosphere within the ground is one of the better I have been to and views and legroom are excellent. The home supporters are very friendly and this is mirrored in the club. On the Saturday that I took the photos below, I was on my way from my hotel in South Shields to Hartlepool v Wycombe. I stopped at the Stadium of Light to grab some pictures and was delighted to be invited in and shown inside the ground. A real nice touch as they were preparing for a game later that day.

There is a large club shop at the ground, selling all sorts of things. I didn't try the official tea bar or bar, but the City Centre is within walking distance and there is plenty to suit all tastes there. I'd recommend a visit to Sunderland, it was a great day out. Though I'd hope for a better game if I went there again.




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